RI Senate and RIDE Leave Little Room for Hope on Education


What’s the basic summary — from the public’s point of view — of Senate President Dominick Ruggerio’s complaint about the Rhode Island Department of Education’s response to a Senate request?

“It was the sloppiest report I have ever seen in my whole life,″ said Ruggerio as he made public a letter he sent Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner earlier in the day to express his “deep disappointment.”

The letter focused on a Senate resolution, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Pearson of Cumberland, “respectfully requesting the R.I. Department of Education to conduct a comprehensive review of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 and provide recommendations to improve Rhode Island’s overall education standards and governance.” The Senate requested a response by December 1, 2018.

Of the response the department known as RIDE provided, Ruggerio asked Wagner, in his letter: “How could the department possibly issue a report [in response] to our resolution without even one mention of Massachusetts? Furthermore, the report is dated June 2017 — a full year before the Senate passed its resolution.”

In short, senators passed an inconsequential and wholly inadequate resolution buying time with a request for more information in lieu of taking real action, and RIDE couldn’t even be bothered to play along that much.

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The interesting question is this:  Is RIDE just this monumentally incompetent, or did the department err mainly in thinking it could respond to the request in the manner that it probably deserved?

  • Monique Chartier

    So we know, from the 5 day delay of her reacting to the recent bad test results, from the languidness of that reaction and from her delivering the coup de grace, three years ago, to Gist’s effective education reform that the Governor of Rhode Island absolutely DOES NOT CARE about our children getting a good education. Her complete indifference to the results is not a surprise because she’s a politician in the worst sense of the word who is solely focused on bigger and better things for herself in four years. She certainly is not going to jeopardize that by bucking a special interest (labor unions) to do the right thing by our children.

    What is a little surprising and dismaying is the (non)reaction of the Education Commissioner. Anyone with a soul and a passion for education would not have sat still for these results but would have been in the governor’s office THAT DAY insisting on substantive change — and submitting his resignation if he did not get it. Accordingly, the non-response and indifference by the education commissioner that parallelled the governor’s makes it clear that a good education for our children is not at all important to him and he is filling this position solely to earn a paycheck and add an item to his resume.

    • Joe Smith

      And what evidence do you have Ms. Chartier that Commissioner Gist had ‘effective education reform?”

      Notice the following quotes.

      “We have watched what’s happened around the country when states have moved to new standards and assessments that are more aligned to college-and career-readiness,” “And these numbers aren’t dissimilar from what other districts have experienced when they’ve made that move. The good news is that this sets the baseline for us.”

      “it will take time for us to get where we want to be.”

      Hmm..Commissioner Wagner quotes?

      Nope, Deborah Gist explaining last year after being in Tulsa already for two years why

      “In every grade and subject, Tulsa Public Schools students fared far worse than statewide averages on Oklahoma’s new state tests.
      The 2017 tests were aligned with more rigorous academic standards adopted for all public schools in the state.

      Twelve TPS sites — including 10 elementary schools — had at least one grade level test with zero percent of students demonstrating proficiency in a subject.”

      (tulsa world, oct 2017)

      Or these items – sound familiar to what you are critical about RI leaders for saying?

      “The most important thing for Tulsa parents and families to know is
      that these state results are not an indication of our students’
      capabilities,” said Gist. “Every child at Tulsa Public Schools has
      extraordinary potential, and we are confident that they will not only
      rise to the challenge of stronger state standards but will also continue to make academic gains based on the measures that matter most in our district.”

      The results come just a day after the school district announced that
      it approved Gist to act as superintendent for at least three more years. She is the highest paid public education official in common ed in the state.

      Huh..city leaders waiting until *after* a decision to present bad news..

  • Joe Smith

    Anyone with a soul and a passion for education would not have sat still
    for these results but would have been in the governor’s office THAT DAY
    insisting on substantive change — and submitting his resignation if he
    did not get it.

    How do you know he didn’t – let’s see if he is Ed Commissioner still in 90 days..after all, principle doesn’t pay the bills so, unless money is not an issue, one is careful not to burn bridges in executing a successful exit. After all, this Gov is the DGA chair..don’t think Wagner is looking to move ‘down’ like Gist did (well, at least level, I think Gist moved up in salary!) so he needs to leave gracefully – or even the fall guy so to speak.

    And honestly, there is plenty of literature on what MASS did in 1993 and Wagner – whether you agree with him or not (I tend not) – laid out items in his first year or so. Unfortunately, very few, including the GA leadership, really bought into his vision. Plus the Board of Education is a non-factor in this state – the inner circle of the Governor calls the shots and she puts people in who for the most part dance to her music or she gives enough to the others so status quo is preferable.